May 7th marks, arguably, the second part of the most intriguing European election in recent memory. April 23rd saw the first round of the French elections where Emmanuel Macron, of the centre-left En Marche! and Marine Le Pen, former leader of the right-wing Le Front National progressed to the run-off. They came first and second, respectively, ahead of the former Trotskyite Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Republican François Fillon, progressing to the second round. This is a remarkable achievement considering the absence of mainstream parties contesting the presidency. The candidates could not be more different as the election essentially comes down to globalism vs protectionism and Europhilia vs Euroscepticism.
Macron is undoubtedly the favourite to make it to the Élysée Palace come Sunday night; according to the polls Macron is ahead by over 10 points. However, despite pollsters predicting Macron will emerge triumphantly, Le Pen should look to the recent past. At 10 pm on June 23rd, there was a surge of expectancy that Remain would be victorious and the Princeton Electoral Consortium, on November 5th, 2016 had given Hillary Clinton a 99% chance of becoming President. It is certainly clear that pollster’s predictions should be treated with caution, however; Macron still appears to be in favour with the French as the more progressive candidate. He has advocated welcoming refugees in need of protection and advocates a global approach to France as opposed to the protectionist Le Pen. In the first round, it was only Macron who advocated the support of free trade deals such as the Canadian-European Union agreement – CETA. Macron appears to be quite ambitious – favouring the mixed economic position, something of which has been frankly non-existent in this country but this position comes with a problem. It is likely that Macron will find trouble passing reforms through the conservative-dominated French Parliament, especially the proposed extension of the welfare state. Emmanuel Macron also faces skepticism towards his asylum migration policy.
Le Pen’s chances are bleak but as were Donald Trump’s under popular consensus on November 9th. French political commentator Dominique Moisi, in a BBC interview with Andrew Neil, described this election in three words – anger (at the elite), fear (of the future) and nostalgia (for the past). Anger in the form of economic stagnation over the decade, anger at the technocrats in Brussels – having an EU constitution imposed against their will and unemployment: 10 per cent, in general, and, 25 per cent of youth unemployed. It was only within the past week that Whirlpool was moving a factory from the northern city of Amiens, Macron’s home city, to Poland. Macron was jeered by the workforce whereas Le Pen received the most raucous of receptions. Although tactically moderating her Euroscepticism, Euroscepticism has always been associated with Ms Le Pen: at the time of the Brexit vote, anti-EU feeling reached as high as 60 per cent in France. It is thought that Le Pen victory would lead to a political tsunami across Europe, the severity of which could mean Brexit negotiations could simply dissipate; Le Pen emerging victorious could potentially end the European Union.
The question is: is another remarkable night in store for global politics? Visit Guild’s bar, the Sphinx, on Sunday night from 6 pm to watch the drama in France unfold.